Walter Kidde

Beginning with the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system for use on board ships in 1918, Walter Kidde pioneered an industry devoted to making our world a safer place to live.

Walter Kidde - Pioneer in early smoke dection and fire suppression technology


  • Born in Hoboken, NJ on March 7, 1877
  • Earned a college degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1897
  • Opened his own office, Walter Kidde Constructors, in 1900
  • Founded the Walter Kidde Company in 1917
  • Produced the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system for use on board ships in 1918
  • Produced the first portable carbon dioxide fire extinguisher in 1924
  • Installed the first built-in industrial fire extinguishing system in 1925
  • Died suddenly in his home in 1943
  • A monument was erected on the banks of the Passaic River, directly across from the entrance to the Walter Kidde factory, to honor his memory


Walter Kidde was driven not only by entrepreneurial instincts, but also by an unending pursuit of solutions to the world’s challenges. After opening his own construction office in New York in 1900, Kidde went on to serve on the New Jersey State Highway Commission, overseeing the construction of the first traffic circle at Camden and the design of the first cloverleaf intersection. Soon, however, his ambitions pushed him down other avenues.

Kidde began to expand into the business of fire fighting, which became the catalyst for his company's rapid growth and development. In 1918, Kidde, Inc., then Walter Kidde & Company, purchased the rights to the "Rich" system for detecting fires on board ships. This method of extinguishing fires by steam had one major flaw, namely, steam caused extensive damage to the ship's cargo. Kidde's answer to this problem was to use carbon dioxide instead of steam as a means of smothering the fire without damaging the cargo.

Later, in 1923, Kidde solved another major challenge in effective firefighting. The carbon dioxide was not being released quickly enough from its container and therefore the extinguishing process was not completely successful. Kidde solved this problem by purchasing the patent rights for a siphon device that allowed quick release of the carbon dioxide. These are just a few examples of the innovative thinking and problem-solving skills for which Walter Kidde will be remembered.


Today, Walter Kidde’s pioneering spirit lives on through the company he founded. We continue to lead the industry, consistently looking to solve new challenges and create technology that saves lives.